Note from D-Sidd: Michael first joined us for an Author Origins interview back in June of 2015. He then returned in March of 2016 to give us a sobering update on his author career. He’d just been dumped by his major publisher and was working on a sequel to his critically acclaimed dark fantasy/grimdark book, Beyond Redemption and wrote about it in this post. Since then, Michael turned to self-publishing for the sequel, The Mirror’s Truth. (FYI, the above picture is not Michael, but he lives in Canada so it’s not completely out of the question that it could be him)
Yep, it’s me sneaking in here again for an update on all things random and insane. There are a couple of earlier blog posts you can check out if you’d like some background, or I can just give it to you now in a trippy drug-fueled flashback.
Crap. I’m all out of mescaline. Awrighty. Here’s the fast version:
I wrote a book (Beyond Redemption), got an agent, and sold that book to Harper Voyager. The book received rave reviews and made over a dozen Best-of-2015 lists. Secure in the knowledge HV would want more of my madness, I wrote a sequel (The Mirror’s Truth) and another novel taking place in the same world but with new characters (Swarm and Steel). I then learned that reviews do not always equal sales, and HV passed on the next book without even looking at it. In their words, Beyond Redemption wasn’t selling enough to warrant investing in a sequel. Gut punch.
Okay. We’re kinda caught up.
After spending several weeks drunk and lying in a pool of my own tears, I finally picked myself up, dusted myself off (really needed to vacuum), and realized I still wanted to write.
But it turns out success is a sneaky bastard. And my decision not to self-publish, I later came to realize, was a trap.
Many years ago—back in 2008—I stated in no uncertain terms that I would never self-publish. The few self-published novels I’d read were garbage. I believed whole-heartedly that if my books weren’t good enough to sell to a publisher, they weren’t good enough to publish. That was how I defined success. Well, by that metric, in 2014 (when BR sold to HV) I became successful. But it turns out success is a sneaky bastard. And my decision not to self-publish, I later came to realize, was a trap.
It turns out publishers are not interested in a sequel to a book held by another publisher. No one wanted The Mirror’s Truth. Having sold a book to a Big 5 publisher I now felt fairly confident (well, as confident as a writer ever feels) that I could write at a professional level. I’d spent a lot of time on TMT, and while it was different that BR—more internally focused on the characters—I was pretty sure it was just as good. But it wouldn’t sell. I faced a choice: Self-publish it, or let it die.
I am so glad I chose to self-publish. The Mirror’s Truth has been out a little over a month, has already landed on several Best-of-2016 lists, and earned back what I spent publishing it.
I went in knowing nothing, made just about every mistake along the way, and learned some amazing lessons. Super fast summary, ‘cuz this post ain’t about those lessons: Hire a good artist. Hire a good typographer for the cover text. Hire a reputable editor. Understand your deadline is self-set and change it if you need to rather than rushing to meet it. Oh, and self-publishing costs money!
Swarm and Steel, on the other hand, was not a sequel. My agent found a home for it with Talos Press (an imprint of Skyhorse/Night Shade Books) and it’s being released in August of 2017.
So now we’re caught up with today.
What does life look like for me right now? Well, I have a job, a family, and have to sneak in the writing wherever I can.
“How do you do that?” you might ask.
I have never been a morning person. The first time I got up at 5 am I thought I was going to puke. But when you want something bad enough, you make it happen.
I realized right away I was too tired—too burned out—in the evenings to write. After work, there was cooking dinner, doing homework with my daughter, spending time with my wife, and of course, whiskey. The only time I might be able to write was early in the morning. So I changed my schedule around. I’m now up by 5 am every day, even on weekends. This gives me two solid hours of writing/editing time before everyone else rises and the day starts. At 7 am I get my daughter up, and at 7:30 am I leave for work. And yeah, I’m in bed before 10 pm most nights. I have never been a morning person. The first time I got up at 5 am I thought I was going to puke. But when you want something bad enough, you make it happen.
More recently I realized there were writing opportunities at work that I was missing. Breaks, lunch time, and the occasional slow-time when nothing is happening. This coincided nicely with my daughter jumping up and down on a cheap Acer tablet I’d bought her a while back. The screen cracked and I didn’t want her cutting herself, but it was still useable. After installing Dropbox and Word, I took the tablet to work. After two days I realized my plan was crap. The damned thing was an utter bastard to type on and kept creating “Conflicted Copies” in Dropbox. But as they say, peanut butter is the step-mother of adversity. Or something.
I couldn’t work on the novel I worked on each morning while at work. That sentence needs the word ‘work’ in it a few more times. But what if I worked (aigh!) on something different? For the last year or so I’d been thinking about experimenting with hand-writing a novel. I couldn’t ever quite bring myself to do it because I love the flexibility of digital and dread retyping the damned thing. But here was the perfect excuse/reason!
In the last week, I brought a binder, paper, and a lovely pen to my place of employment. I’ve started world-building a new project. Gods my writing is messy! I don’t care how long it takes, but I will finish this hand-written novel.
As writers we face adversity. It’s part of the business. But we’re like sharks: if we stop we drown. (Note: Yeah, yeah, apparently this isn’t true for all breeds of shark. Or might not be true at all. I write fiction. I’m allowed to make shit up!)
The future is less certain than a Terminator movie. I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow, never mind next year. Will I someday be able to quit my job and write full-time? Dunno. I hope so, but if not, it doesn’t really matter. I love what I’m doing.
And writing keeps me sane.